Sunday, June 19, 2016

Nepal 3

When we began our journeys Nepal did not make the list of places we thought we might possibly visit.  It wasn't until we acclimated to life away from home in Costa Rica, became seasoned travelers through Europe, and had positive experiences in a developing country like Morocco, that a place like Nepal could even become survivable for our family.  Regardless of all this experience Nepal was hard.   We chose to stay at a homestay to enhance our opportunity to get to know the local people and the Nepali way of life. It's like buying your own friends and knowledgeable tour guide in one handy homemade package.  Babu and Bandana (Bella) Maharjan operate "the best homestay in Nepal."  Tripadvisor even says so.  Every morning they fed us breakfast and every night we had a delicious dinner of traditional Nepali food slightly altered for our kids eating palettes and our inability to handle the five chili level heat of traditional fare.   Their home is located about thirty minutes outside of Kathmandu in a little village called Langol.  Just behind the village are some steep hills.  We took one day to hike up to some mountain villages in the hills.
The climb was steep, and it was hot!  But the kids were
 troopers.  Babu, our guide, said we did about 8 km that day. 
 Our stamina is definitely increasing, the kids did awesome!  

In the little village, there is no machinery and the only way to get to the village is by walking or motorbike because of the steep road.  As we walked along the dirt road we could look out and see teams of women that till the fields by hand to prepare the soil for planting.  It is hard work, but these women systematically, shoulder to shoulder, turn the soil to prepare for the planting.  In other fields we watched groups harvesting wheat by hand.  I felt like I had stepped back in time a thousand years.  
We did find a man with a  rototiller but he insisted that this field was too small to use a tiller on.

As we walked down the other side of the mountain, we observed more reminders of the earthquake.   This is one of the local houses made of mud brick that collapsed in the earthquake.  People now use cooked bricks which are much better than just sun baked mud.
As we walked through the nearest city for a little excursion we were  invited into this woman's house.  Here name was Rita.  This is a picture of her yard outside of her apartment .  Her apartment was one small room about 12 X 14 feet where she cooked her meals and lived with her two sons.  Some people had as many as 8 people living in a little apartment like this and they all share the one bathroom on the the floor.  This is the living conditions of so many of the people, and watching women hauling loads like the one below is common place.

Maggie and Aaron went to a festival dinner to eat "spicy food" as they called it.  The food was so hot they couldn't finish it.  With their meal they were given a liter of water, a soda, and yoghurt to help with the heat.  It was pretty intense.

Bella our host was so kind to cook for us throughout the two weeks we were there.  The local food was so tasty but so hot.  Mostly they eat daal bhat (lentils with rice) and lots of spices.  They eat meat only once or twice a week.  The most exciting part was that they don't use utensils.  Everything is eaten with your hands and served in plates with high sides so that you can push food against the side and get a good hand on it.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Nepal 2

The ancient city of Bhaktapur was a great site to see.  The city dates back to the 1400s and is filled with temples, squares, and markets.  It is a popular place for all the tourists to see because it is  walkable, for the most part, and rich with history.

 A picture in the walled city with our tour guide Babu and Nancy from Malta that was also staying at the same guest house.
A lot  of the historical structures were damaged in the earthquake so there was a lot of effort to stabilize things so they could start repairing the damage.  A year after the earthquake it appeared that little progress had been made.  The construction process here will be a long one.

This was once a royal bath for a king.  Now it sits with stagnant water and a bit of disrepair, but it was marvelous to behold.
The people of Nepal don't have electricity regularly, they get it for a few hours at different times each day.   This means that you see a lot of people coping with their day to day tasks without electricity.  This particular woman was spinning thread to make clothing.
As you can see from the picture above, they are still digging themselves out from the earthquake rubble.  This was us on our way into where they make paper.  Half of the building is collapsed and they use the other parts just like normal.  Our guide told us that for many months after the earthquake they would get tremors, we even had one while we were at his homestay, a little 4.3 earthquake.  It made me a little nervous to stay in these buildings very long.
We visited a paper company that makes hand made paper.  It was vey interesting to see them make pulp, dye it, and dry it into sheets of paper.  It was all made by hand.
A local woman was drawing water from a very old well.  The water was filthy.  This was one of the other problems in Kathmandu.  The whole city is on the search for clean water and there just doesn't appear to be enough.
Outside of the temple we found the "holy goats".  They were quite large.  The locals
 told us not to get too close because the goats were known to charge without warning.  

At the top of this particular temple we ran into a private school field trip.  These kids were all very well spoken in English and absolutely thrilled to talk with us.  We felt like celebrities.  It was increasingly difficult for our children to deal with people in such close quarters.  The people of Nepal have a much closer bubble around them than we are used to so it feels a bit like a mob when you are swarmed by them all at once.
Here was a local market experience.  We loved walking around the shops and enjoying interacting with the people.  Max was brave enough to negotiate his own price for the marionette that he bought. The shop keeper was quite impressed with Max.

Nepal #1

Our first day in Nepal turned out to be filled with many new friends.  It didn't appear that the local village saw many white children before so we were quite the celebrities.  It helped that we were next door to the local soccer field, so we were easily spotted by the youth.  The longer we stayed the more brave they became.  It was such fun meeting everyone.
A lot of the Nepali people had a little training in English.  The children that went to public school were pretty weak in English but the private school children were very well spoken.
We joined the local soccer game, and the children had a great time laughing at our inability to play soccer.  Of course they had all been playing since they could walk and could run and kick effortlessly without any shoes at all.  We even had a chance to show them some fun "American" games that they had never seen before.
There were many makeshift vehicles that traversed the road.  This one that is essentially a rototiller with a trailer attached to it, was one of our favorites.  It was a quite a work horse and we saw them everywhere.
Two of the beautiful girls in the neighborhood
Goats and the constant honking of horns, frequented the street.
The neighbor boy, Avikur, was one of our most frequent 
visitors.  He was a pleasant delight to have around.
We took a tour of the local village and people had begun to start construction on the houses that fell during the earthquake of April 2015.  Here are some laborers that were digging footings for a foundation.  All of the dirt was moved out by hand woven baskets.  It looked like back breaking work and it was done by women primarily.  We rarely saw wheelbarrows.  I would imagine because they cost money and baskets were free to make from bamboo.
One of the local small temples with sheaves of wheat stacked in front of it.  It was the season to harvest wheat and we saw many people harvesting wheat by hand.
Here is an example of a house after the earthquake.  These half destroyed and completely unsafe buildings were everywhere.  Many were still being used to some degree.   

We saw many people that had created shelters out of materials donated after the earthquake.  This particular house (kitchen above and one room below) was made from sandbags, and once the sandbags were set in place concrete was set on top of it to hold it in place.  It was an ingenious idea. and quite cozy for this individual.  The entire structure was maybe 20 feet by 15 feet.

Kari decided to take a picture of their raw sewage that the composted to be used for fertilizer later.

A red smear at the top of the forehead means that they have been to pray at the local shrine that morning.  A red dot or tikka, in between the eyebrows means married, as does the read beaded necklace.  Tessa quickly befriended another girl.  I guessed by their similar toothy smiles that they were the same age.  It's great to be 8.  The grandmother (above) and granddaughter, (below) belong to the same fairly wealthy family.  Before the earthquake they had a large brick home.  Now, over a year later, they live in temporary bamboo, tin, and brick structures and use what is left of the house as a barn for their animals.  They were all smiles though, and kind enough to share some grapes and apples with our kids.

The people of the local village Lanagol were very kind to us.  Most of them are related.  The village consists of roughly 40 families and luckily there was only one fatality in the earthquake.

Everyone in the village works for their own benefit.  This lady was not related to anyone in the family and did not have sons or family to share in her work.  As you can see, they work as long as they are able, she is 72 years old.

Max is always good to try to engage the local people with a friendly "Namaste" and a smile.

A local family was kind enough to invite us to visit them in their house.  It was so kind.  They lived in  a one bedroom house with 4 people and ate their meals on the floor.  They were so generous with what they had.